Al wants his VTV.
As former Vice President Al Gore edges toward mini-media-moguldom, press sources quoted his partners this week as saying that Mr. Gore would go younger, not leftier-and now, if his plans work, The Observer has learned, Mr. Gore’s news channel could be … VTV.
V for victory, V for Vice President, V for Vermont, which Mr. Gore won by 30,000 votes in 2000.
In April, Mr. Gore’s principal business partner, Joel Hyatt, purchased a Web site called V.tv from The .tv Corporation, which supplies .tv domain extensions to customers like TBS, the Lifetime Channel and PAX. The company’s Web site lists Mr. Hyatt as V.tv’s administrative contact and as a representative of INDTV, L.L.C., located in Stanford, Calif., where Mr. Hyatt teaches business at Stanford University. An industry source confirmed that INDTV is the working incorporated name of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt’s TV project, which has been characterized in press reports as either a news network for the reality-TV generation or a liberal answer to Fox News, or both.
As of this writing, V.tv has not yet been activated.
According to the .tv Web site, the price of a fancy one-character domain name is $10,000. Mr. Hyatt didn’t return calls seeking comment, so it’s hard to know what the V in VTV stands for. One can only visualize Winston Churchill-or John Lennon-holding up two fingers.
If VTV sounds like that other three-lettered channel so beloved by the Oxy Cream generation, that’s no coincidence. Mr. Gore’s channel will reportedly be geared toward the young Democrats of tomorrow, who can relate to Mr. Gore’s fixation with the Internet and hand-held digital-video cameras (V for va-va-video !). Mr. Gore was a fan of MTV’s late-90’s video-diary show, Unfiltered , and met with the show’s producer earlier this year to talk about similar programming concepts.
With that in mind, The Observer called up a few members of the potential consumers in VTV’s future target audience to see if they’d ever flip to a channel that aired “edgy” 24-hour news about, say, Iraq and file-sharing and those bad, bad Fox News commentators.
“Yeah, I’d be interested,” said Jimmy Jung, a 23-year-old advertising assistant. “I’d be curious. I don’t know if I’d check it out all the time, but probably.”
Mr. Jung assumed that, if Mr. Gore was involved, it would be “liberal-slanted media.” In fact, Mr. Gore’s name had to be considered, even if the respondents were fond of the idea.
“I’d be hesitant, because it’s being operated by former Vice President Al Gore,” said Sarah Lewitinn, a 23-year-old assistant editor at Spin magazine whose friends call her “Ultragrrrl.” “But at the same time, it’s cool that he’s trying to bring current affairs to the young. I think people get their information from MTV anyway, so here’s a network for them, which is kind of smart. I know a lot of people in my age group are really unaware of what’s going on in the world. They know more about the new Strokes album than what is going on in Iran and Iraq and Syria.”
She said it would have to be something with a sense of humor, like The Daily Show , to work. But Elliot Aronow, 23, a public-relations assistant, said it needed to have some gravity. “It depends how seriously they took themselves and how much they gave young people an opportunity to report what they see,” he said. “I think young people need to be informed, but not pandered to with all sorts of jump-cut, MTV-style editing. On the other hand, I do believe that most conventional news is totally disconnected from most young people.”
Karen Ruttner, a 22-year-old intern at a music-booking agency, gave The Observer the bottom line: “The truth is, when it comes to important news, I don’t really care what people my age think. I’d rather hear the professional opinions of, like, seasoned news vets-people who know history and can really be comforting.”
Josh Rosenblatt, 20, a student, said he had actually worked on Mr. Gore’s Presidential campaign in the former Vice President’s home state of Tennessee in 2000-and even he wasn’t too sure about Mr. Gore’s new thing.
“I like him as a person and as a candidate, but I don’t know how much I trust him with TV,” he said. “I just think, for the average 18-to-21-year-old or whatever they’re aiming for, you can’t fool them into liking politics. At the end of the day, they have to compete with The Daily Show .”
But what do the seasoned professionals think of it?
“I think there’s a market for it, but a small market,” said Jim Murphy, the executive producer of the CBS Evening News . “How are they going to engage people? Personality? Smarts? You can do it by being hip, but news is not a hip thing. College-age kids and kids in their 20’s are interested in what’s going on, but it doesn’t mean they want to consume news. Can you make them feel young, smart and hip by watching this? Sure. But can you do that with homegrown documentaries? No.”
For now, Mr. Gore and his partners are still negotiating the $70 million acquisition of digital-cable network Newsworld International from Vivendi Universal after French-owned Vivendi agreed to merge the rest of its entertainment assets with NBC.
Another unresolved question: Will VTV air reruns of V , the 1980’s sci-fi series about rodent-eating aliens who take over the earth? They should! That is, if their deal with Universal isn’t Vaporized.
For now, the only place on the tube where you can see the Gore-like Vulcans is on Star Trek: Enterprise . [ WWOR, 9, 8 p.m. ]
Thursday, Oct. 16
Here at NYTV, we’re calling it “Norville-gate.”
On Thursday, Oct. 9, a weekly newspaper in Dallas reported that Deborah Norville, the blond host of the CBS tabloid Inside Edition , paid a whirlwind visit to an affiliate there on Sept. 30 that ended with a 72-year-old security guard being fired on her behalf. Reportedly, Ms. Norville had been late for a taping when, rushing to the locked front door of the station, she loudly declared her identity and did not receive a fleet-footed response from one Richard Daniels. According to staffers at the station, the Dallas Observer reported, ” Deborah Norville began acting more like Diva Norville”-and within an hour, Mr. Daniels was axed.
Reached by NYTV a day later, Ms. Norville expressed shock and horror at the report.
“I am so distressed about this story,” she said. “I had no idea that anything had happened. What’s astonishing to me is, I complimented a number of people at the station about the efficiency of this gentleman.
“I don’t expect everyone to like me out there,” she added. “But I do expect people in the journalism business to be fair, and this article is hugely unfair.”
Ms. Norville said she never complained to management about Mr. Daniels. She said she was too good-natured for such a thing, and she cited her work with the Girl Scouts Council of Greater New York and the Alzheimer’s Association as evidence. She also said she was trying to score Mr. Daniels a new job, working a contact that has some connections affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security.
“It’s just not me , and anybody who knows me knows this is not me,” she said. “I guarantee you I had nothing to do with it.”
Mr. Daniels, sitting at home on Monday, Oct. 13, said Ms. Norville had called him on Friday, and he planned on taking her up on her offer to help him find a new job.
“I don’t believe Deborah Norville, who appears on that Edition show, would do something like this on her own,” he said, putting the blame for his ouster on a station manager named Bill Maples, who he said held a grudge against him for unknown reasons. “I think they saw she was a big celebrity and chose to believe her instead of me, because they figured she’d be in their corner. But she told me she’s not in their corner. Everybody around there liked me.”
Eric Celeste, the Dallas Observer reporter, said a number of staffers at the station contacted him about the incident, describing the TV host clamoring at the front door, “I’m Deborah Norville! I’m late!” Once the management learned that Ms. Norville’s arrival had been stalled by security, they asked Mr. Daniels to pack his bags. The managers of the CBS-UPN duopoly, Steve Mauldin and Mr. Maples, respectively, both claimed that Mr. Celeste’s report was inaccurate.
“Honestly, I will tell you unequivocally,” said Mr. Mauldin, “if she said, ‘You need to get rid of this guy,’ I would tell you. Deborah Norville was not an ass, she was a lady. We had an issue with the security guard.”
Mr. Mauldin characterized Mr. Daniels as having a history of belligerence. He said the event was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” and then handed the phone over to Mr. Maples, who he said could tell NYTV more stories of Mr. Daniels’ ineptitude.
“I also caught him sleeping on the job a couple of times,” said Mr. Maples. “I wish someone would get the facts straight.”
But Mr. Celeste stood by his story.
“The entire station thought it was ridiculous,” he said. “The person I talked to, who was sitting right there with Richard, said, ‘That was the rudest woman I’ve ever seen.’ The person who Steve Mauldin told me witnessed it said, ‘I did not see it all.’ She didn’t see it until it was basically over.” Call Inside Edition ! [ WPIX, 11, 1 a.m. ]
Friday, Oct. 17
After a two-year hiatus from the TV screen, former Full House heartthrob and cocksman John Stamos returns on Sunday, Nov. 16, with a cameo in the CBS miniseries The Reagans , which stars James Brolin as Ronald Reagan. Mr. Stamos, who is trying to kill off his Teen Beat persona, will play John Sears, the former Reagan campaign manager and onetime Nixon White House aide who some theorists believe is the famous Watergate leaker Deep Throat.
That means … Uncle Jesse is Deep Throat. That means … Mary Kate and Ashley can be Maureen Dean and Martha Mitchell.
NYTV called up Mr. Stamos to see if he had any insight into the man who might have changed history. Mr. Stamos, who said he voted for Mr. Reagan in the 1980’s, said he’s done a bit of research, but just a bit.
“They gave me excerpts from a few different books, but I can’t remember what they were,” he said. “It was kind of cramming. I did as much as I could, but I’m in the middle of doing Nine .” (Mr. Stamos recently took over the part of Guido Contini from Antonio Banderas in the Broadway musical.)
So what exactly does John Sears do in The Reagans ?
“He came in and took over the Reagans’ whole campaign and he tried to muscle out Nancy and that’s when he got himself in trouble,” he explained.
He seemed vaguely aware of the Deep Throat connection, but he wasn’t even sure if Mr. Sears was still alive or not.
“I heard two or three different reports,” said Mr. Stamos. “I don’t think he is.”
Actually, he is. But, hey, it’s just a cameo.
Mr. Stamos recently signed a deal to develop a TV series with production company Brad Grey TV and 20th Century Fox TV for the 2004 season. He hasn’t hit on a show idea yet-“I just watch TV and I’m confused on what to do anymore”-but he said he was a fan of Fox’s forthcoming sitcom Arrested Development , which stars another 80’s heartthrob, Jason Bateman.
“I’d like to dig in with more complex characters than I did on Full House , certainly,” he said. “I’m fascinated with the darker side.”
Meanwhile, those Full House reruns just won’t go away! If you’re an early riser, you can catch this episode from Sept. 22, 1987. [Nickelodeon, 6, 5:30 a.m.]
Saturday, Oct. 18
NYTV hears rumblings of a mini-mutiny over at BBC America. Over 12,000 fans of the cockney-Brit soap EastEnders have signed an online petition to save the show from Stateside extinction. The channel axed the program from its schedule on Sept. 27, due to poor ratings.
According to programming vice president David Bernath, the channel could no longer afford the program, which was being purchased from BBC H.Q. in London. “The size of the audience has been abysmal,” said Mr. Bernath in an online BBC chat with miffed fans of the show two days after the last episode aired.
In case you’re not familiar with the Beeb’s anti– Masterpiece Theatre , here’s an abridged EastEnders taster, courtesy of NYTV. The scene: The Old Vic Pub. A big, busty blonde in a pink nylon blouse and skin-tight jeans is propped up at the bar, shandy in hand. She leans over to the equally bosomy curly-haired barmaid.
“Oy, ya silly cow, lay awf me fella,” says she, “or I’ll tell yer Phil ’bout wat you got up ta the ovva night wiv ‘is bruvvah.”
Expat fans of the show are positively “losing the marbles” without their weekly fix of cockney shenanigans. “I am absolutely livid,” said Nicola Perry, owner of the West Village “chips and beans” restaurant Tea and Sympathy. “I only got BBC America to watch EastEnders .”
Ms. Perry, who herself hails from London’s East End, has arranged to have tapes sent from a friend in Scotland, which she plans to share with fellow End -heads. “We’re organizing a tape chain,” she said, adding that, though she enjoys other shows on BBC America, she has officially boycotted the channel. “I love The Office , but I cannot watch that station anymore.”
It’s not just expats who are upset. New Yorker and confirmed Anglophile Larry Jaffee, editor and publisher of the Walford Gazette -a quarterly EastEnders fanzine he started 12 years ago-is currently in London lobbying BBC Worldwide’s president, Mark Young. “The short of it is, he’s going to stand by [the] decision,” said Mr. Jaffee, who actually got an hour-long meeting with the BBC executive in which to air his grievances. According to Mr. Jaffee, Mr. Young said that BBC Worldwide is figuring out ways to fill the void, either by DVD, VHS or video on demand, although no plans were imminent. “I gave him a commitment that I’d sell 3,000 copies in the first six months of release through the Gazette ,” said Mr. Jaffee.
Tonight, if you’re still wondering what all the fuss is about, the ever-trusty WLIW continues to air episodes of EastEnders . The problem is, they’re from three years ago.
“BBC America’s [episodes] were only two weeks behind London,” said an enraged Ms. Perry. “They pulled it just before Dirty Den was coming back to the Old Vic.” Tragic, bloody tragic. -Shazia Ahmad [WLIW, 21, 10 p.m.]
Sunday, Oct. 19
Tonight, the second episode of the new season of The Office is on. It’s really funny! [ BBC America, 106, 9 p.m. ]
Monday, Oct. 20
Anderson Cooper’s new-ish show on CNN is called Anderson Cooper 360 . What does that title mean? It sounds like his chair spins round and round and he sees all the news of the world as a big blur and then faces the camera, disoriented and delirious, and tries to deliver information in complete sentences to a few hundred thousand people at once. That could mean that CNN’s secret plan to beat Fox is … make its audience dizzy and really nauseated. Then nobody can get up to turn to Bill O’Reilly. At least it’s a plan. [CNN, 10, 7 p.m.]